So what would a Sports Therapist know about working in an office?! Firstly, there’s the previous career which I don’t like to talk about! Thankfully it ultimately lead me to my true vocation but I do vividly recall being bored out of my mind sat for hours at a time at a desk. Secondly, there’s the last 10 years, fixing people with a whole manner of work related aches, pains issues. Physical and emotional!
As a result I’ve decided to combine those experiences and knowledge gained to give you the following guide to help you look after yourself. Hopefully doing myself out of a job in the process – of course you know where we are if you need us! None of the individual points are rocket science and most involve common sense and things you will have heard before. The question is have ever tired actually implementing any, or better still, all of them. The difference these simple changes can make have vastly improved many of clients injuries and also quality of life.
1. Keep Calm And Carry On – Ok so a bit of a cliché and a great way to sell merchandise but these are wise words. Let’s look at the flip side – Does panicking ever help? Are you more likely to hit the deadlines running around screaming about it or just calmly moving from one task to the next to ultimately achieve your goal. Now I don’t expect many of you to be running around screaming – that’s just not the British way! But this can be translated into worrying, stressing, whining, moaning, avoiding, fearing. If you’re wasting your brain power on any of these kinds of emotions it’s really not helping. I’m not suggesting we don’t have these emotions, we’d be machines and not humans, but just don’t dwell on them, or as I like to put it, don’t climb inside these emotions. But how do you stay calm, read on…
2. Breathing – We rarely do this enough! Ok, maybe just about enough, but we could do it better. Recent improvements in our understanding of bio-mechanics has shown how our diaphragm is integral to every movement in our body. If we do not breath and relax correctly we are at increased likelihood of injury – fact! It’s also shown to beneficial from a relaxation point of view, when we’re more relaxed we think clearer, are more efficient and therefore take pressure off ourselves. This may sound a bit fluffy to a few of you, a few years ago I’d have been the same, but it looks like all those yogi may have known what they’re doing! Try it now. If you can lie down to do this then do, if not sitting will have to do. Simply take some deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to do ‘tummy’ breathing whereby your stomach inflates as you breath in and try to avoid moving the ribs – diaphragmatic breathing we like to call it. Do 10 of these breaths and see how your mind feels. Nice hey? There’s some more information here on breathing.
3. Prioritisation – A psychological tip that has helped me a lot in the last year. A lot of use our intimidated by the sheer amount of things on our plate. Whether we’re a stay at home mum (the hardest job in the world!) or the CEO of a global company we’re all the same. Our stuff is important to us. But we are all guilty of juggling too many things without stepping back and prioritising and causing ourselves unnecessary stress. Here’s a simple method to help. Take each item on your to do list a place it in one of the following categories:
1. Urgent And Important – For example someone gets hurt or killed or the business / family goes under if this doesn’t get done this second
2. Important Not Urgent – For example the long term business or family planning – whilst it’s important to get this done at some point, it’s not going to affect anyone’s life if it’s not done today
3. Urgent Not Important – For example someone really needs a reply to an email but the business won’t be massively affected if it doesn’t happen or babies nappy needs changing but in the grand scheme of things if the baby sits in poo for another 15 minutes it’s not going affect their long term health
4. Not Urgent, Not Important – I like to call this the nice to do’s. The things that the inner perfectionist in all of us would really like to get done but day to day doesn’t make that much difference
When I first did this exercise I was amazed how much of my epic to do list ended up in category 4 (I can feel a post on perfectionism coming on!) and even more surprised as to how little was genuinely in box 1. There’s more information on this technique here.
I think we’re all guilty of getting so entrenched in the detail of our day to day life we put so much pressure on ourselves to get everything done but when we take a step back are the things we are so desperate to do as important as we make them feel? If you only relax when you’ve got everything done you’ll never relax, there will always be things to do. Get used to it and build in time to relax.
4. Posture – Ah yes my favourite subject once again. The ‘Posture Nazi’ is back. Why is it so important? Most of the insidious injuries we see at the clinic (that just means stuff that hurts that you never damaged in a freak accident – RSI for example) when we get to the root cause of the problem is all to do with how we hold ourselves. Our mood is reflected in our posture. Look around the office now and it’s not too hard to work out who’s having a good day and who’s having a bad day – if you do it often enough you’ll soon figure out who hates their job! Equally we can look at this the other way – can our posture affect our mood? The latest research would suggest it can! Try it next time your having a bad day, sit up straight and alert, force a smile and away you go. See how it affects your mood. If you want more tips on posture check back at this previous post.
5. Take Regular Breaks – After a break our stress levels are reduced, we are more focused and more efficient. We all know this so why don’t we do this? Sometimes I think we forget as we get more and more focused on our work. But that doesn’t allow us to take a step back and look at the overall situation. A break will do this. I always recommend to our clients to use only a small cup of water. That way as you inevitably drain the cup every 30 minutes of so you have to take a wander to the water dispenser, maybe a quick chat with a friend on the way and bingo, fresh perspective when you get back to your desk.
6. Lunch Break – Please, please, please take a lunch break! Don’t tell me, “you’re too busy to take a lunch break.” You’ll be more efficient, more productive, less stressed and happier if you do. And try and squeeze some exercise into it as well even if it’s just a walk around the block. Ideally take the full hour and sit down to eat, be sociable and get some exercise. Even if you “can’t” take an hour then take as much as you can, 30 minutes as a bear minimum. I remember on those rare occasions in the office when I worked through lunch by about 3pm I was no use to anyone – no comment please about being no use at all, I changed career all right!
7. Do Some Exercise – As mentioned above some exercise at lunchtime is great even if it’s just a walk. But exercise before or after work releases lots of lovely endorphins to make you feel good about your day, stave of stress and give you time to forget about work and daydream about the important things in life. Ironically, when you take time away from work that’s when your best ideas to make work easier pop into your brain.
8. Take Time To Eat – There’s nothing more depressing than taking a soggy sandwich back to your desk and stuffing it down whilst carrying on working. It’s important to take time to eat, enjoy our food, digest it and hopefully gain the nourishment from a healthy meal. You’ll come back to you desk feeling refreshed and ready to go again. I’m sure we’ve all done the exact opposite and wolfed our lunch down in 2 minutes flat and then wonder why 20 minutes later we have stomach ache!
9. Focus – Easy to say, harder to do. Modern life is so filled with distractions. We have constant emails, texts and phone calls to answer and that’s before we get bored and distracted by something completely unrelated on the internet – men by sport, women by gossip columns if we’re conforming to stereotypes! If you have a piece of work that needs doing switch your phones off, close the internet and email accounts and avoid distractions. There’s a great article from Time magazine all about such issues here.
10. Lay Off The Caffeine – So many people in an effort to break up their day drink gallons of tea and coffee. It’s a stimulant as we all well know. It makes nerves more sensitive. For those with pain or discomfort it’s just going to make you feel things more. For those who are juggling 20 things in your brain it’s just going to speed that whirling feeling inside your brain. Make the switch to herbal tea or simply water you’ll feel the difference.
So there you have it. There’s a list of the top 10 mistakes we’ve seen people make (and also done ourselves if truth be told) that ultimately contribute to them having to come and see us. Obviously it’s not everything but I would guess that if you were to implement all of those points above your would be considerably less likely to need out services and happier to boot.
Of course if you do need some help with a physical issue we’d love to hear from you and help improve the quality of your life. Maybe you can’t get out to do the exercise that helps keep you sane? The number you need is at the top of the page. If you’d like to find out more about what we do have a browse of the site. A good place to start is the home page.